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Finding aid to the Faxon Dean Atherton family papers, 1852-1910, MS 4129
MS 4129  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Related Collections
  • System of Arrangement
  • Processing Information
  • Biographical Information
  • Scope and Contents

  • Title: Faxon Dean Atherton family papers
    Date: 1852-1910
    Collection Identifier: MS 4129
    Creator: Atherton, Faxon Dean, 1815-1877
    Extent: 2 boxes, 1 volume (1.5 linear feet)
    Contributing Institution: California Historical Society
    678 Mission Street
    San Francisco, CA, 94105-4014
    (415) 357-1848
    reference@calhist.org
    URL: http://www.californiahistoricalsociety.org/
    Location of Materials: Collection is stored onsite.
    Language of Materials: Collections materials are mostly in English, with some papers in Spanish.
    Abstract: Dated between 1852 and 1910, the bulk of the collection consists of personal and business correspondence addressed to Faxon Dean Atherton; business records generated by Atherton, his agents, and associates in Valparaiso and California; and real estate records for land owned by Atherton in Alameda, Contra Costa, Monterey, and Santa Cruz counties. The collection also includes personalia and ephemera collected by Atherton family members; court documents and probate records; income, state, and county tax documents; and other papers.

    Access

    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the Director of the Library and Archives, North Baker Research Library, California Historical Society, 678 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105. Consent is given on behalf of the California Historical Society as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission from the copyright owner. Such permission must be obtained from the copyright owner. Restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Faxon Dean Atherton family papers, MS 4129, California Historical Society.

    Related Collections

    Related materials may be found in the Faxon Dean Atherton papers, Vault MS 5.

    System of Arrangement

    The collection is arranged in seven series: 1) Correspondence; 2) Personalia and ephemera; 3) Business records; 4) Legal records; 5) Real estate records; 6) Income, state, and county tax records; and 7) James Lick Trust records. Papers are arranged in rough chronological order within series.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Marie Silva in 2011.

    Biographical Information

    Faxon Dean Atherton was born in Dedham, Massachusetts, in 1815. He began his commercial career in 1830 as an apprentice to his brother-in-law, Boston merchant Charles T. Ward, and started his own hauling business in Boston in 1832. Atherton first came to the Pacific Coast in 1833, securing a position with Loring & Co. at their ship chandlery firm in Valparaiso, Chile, the following year. Around 1835, he met George Henry Bowen, who would become his business partner and lifelong friend.
    From 1836 to 1838, Atherton worked as a clerk for Alpheus B. Thompson, a merchant engaged in the hides and tallow trade on the California coast. During this period, Atherton penned his California diary and formed friendships with many prominent Californians, including Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo and Thomas O. Larkin (with whom he was to be associated in several real estate and commercial ventures).
    Atherton settled in Valparaiso around 1840 and became a successful merchant dealing in hides and tallow, foodstuffs, and other commodities. In 1850, Atherton and Bowen joined Loring & Co. as partners. Eventually, Atherton became one of the wealthiest men on the Pacific Coast, making extensive investments in California commerce and real estate. In 1853, he hired San Francisco agent Alexander B. Grogan to represent his interests in California. After Atherton’s death, Grogan served as the executor of his estate.
    Around 1860, Atherton returned to California to settle permanently, liquidating his assets in Valparaiso and reinvesting his money in the new state. Atherton's real estate purchases included Valparaiso Park in San Mateo County; the land now forms much of present-day Atherton. Other significant purchases in the 1850s and 1860s included: San Cayetano, Corralitos, and Sal Si Puedes ranches in Santa Cruz County; San Lorenzo Ranch and Hayward lots in Alameda County; and Milpitas Ranch in Monterey County. Atherton also served on the Board of Trustees of the Lick Trust and played an instrumental role in the construction of a railroad to Hayward.
    Atherton married Dominga Goñi, daughter of a prominent Chileno family. They had seven surviving children: Eulogia Isabel (wife of Enrique Edwards); Elena or Helena (wife of Captain Fred Macondray and Percival W. Selby); María Alejandra (wife of Lawrence Rathbone); Florence (wife of Ed Eyre); Faxon Dean Atherton, Jr. (husband of Jenny Selby); George H. B. Atherton (husband of California author Gertrude Atherton); and Francisco Atherton. Faxon Dean Atherton died at Valparaiso Park in 1877.

    Scope and Contents

    Dated between 1852 and 1910, the bulk of the collection consists of personal and business correspondence addressed to Faxon Dean Atherton; business records generated by Atherton, his agents, and associates in Valparaiso and California; and real estate records for land owned by Atherton in Alameda, Contra Costa, Monterey, and Santa Cruz counties. The collection also includes personalia and ephemera collected by Atherton family members; court documents and probate records; income, state, and county tax documents; and other papers.
    Correspondence (1852-1896) documents Faxon Dean Atherton’s family life, as well as his commercial and real estate ventures in Chile and California. Family correspondence includes letters written to Faxon Dean Atherton by his sister and brother-in-law, Amanda and Charles T. Ward; wife Dominga Goñi de Atherton (in Spanish); children, George Atherton, Faxon Dean Atherton, Jr., Florence Atherton, and Isabel Edwards; and son-in-law Enrique Edwards. Letters written by Atherton’s friends and business associates document Atherton’s business activities in Valparaiso in the 1850s; the business activities and disputes of other New England merchants in Chile, including Loring & Co. and Samuel Crane & Co.; and Atherton’s commercial and real estate investments in California in the 1850s, 1860s, and 1870s, especially as recorded by his attorney James W. Thrift.
    Business records (1852-1910) include accounts, receipts, invoices, and other documents created or collected by Faxon Dean Atherton, his San Francisco agent Alexander B. Grogan, and Dominga Goñi de Atherton, in Valparaiso and California. These include billheads for a variety of mid-nineteenth-century Valparaiso and California businesses, including Loring & Co. Other business records include records for Dry Creek Tunnel & Fluming Co. in Shasta County and Fair Oaks Farm Dairy, owned and operated by Atherton’s son-in-law Percival W. Selby.
    Real estate records (1859-1882) include surveys, deeds, indentures, accounts, and leases for California lands purchased by Faxon Dean Atherton, including San Cayetano, Corralitos, and Sal Si Puedes ranches in Santa Cruz County; San Lorenzo Ranch and Hayward lots in Alameda County; and Milpitas Ranch in Monterey County.
    Other papers include report cards for Atherton’s children, including Florence Atherton’s Mills Seminary records; Faxon D. Atherton vs. Fortoul et als. court papers, documenting a land dispute between Atherton and members of the Vallejo family; estate records for New England merchant John Gorham Coffin, who died in Valparaiso; and two documents pertaining to the James Lick Trust, for which Atherton served on the board of trustees.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Atherton family.
    Billheads.
    Businessmen--California.
    Deeds.
    Letters.
    Merchants--California.
    Merchants--Chile--Valparaíso.
    Real estate investment--California.
    Real property--California--Alameda County.
    Real property--California--Contra Costa County.
    Real property--California--Monterey County.
    Real property--California--Santa Cruz County.
    Receipts (financial records).